This November, we’d like to introduce you to an exceptional and generous volunteer: Randie Bencanann! Randie has been volunteering with us since 2015, bringing kindness and encouragement to our After-School Tutoring program, but also our Tenderloin Center workshops, and numerous In-School projects (including the Young Authors’ Book Project and Personal Statement Weekend.) Program Manager Ryan Young says “Randie holds students to high expectations and is extremely consistent in her work with high school students in the SFUSD. She also volunteers with our partner organization, ScholarMatch, to help students with the difficult task of applying for college scholarships.”
To kick off her interview, Randie stated: “First and foremost, I am extremely honored to be chosen. The staff at 826 are among the most remarkable, dedicated, talented, and enthusiastic group that I have encountered in my many many years in the nonprofit world. They make it easy to both want to volunteer and to be successful at it. The only group who surpasses them is the students.” Read on to learn more about Randie.
What is one of your favorite moments (memories, experiences or anecdotes!) from volunteering with 826 Valencia?
One of my fondest memories was helping a young male student at Burton High with the Frankenstein-themed writing. He presented himself as fairly apathetic and sure that he had nothing to share. But as we started to work together, he had a very important and heartfelt story that needed to come out. I was amazed at how vulnerable he allowed himself to be, that he would risk exposing himself to his classmates in that way. He used each of the ten sessions to create and improve his narrative, and we both shared in the pride of the finished story. Perhaps the most gratifying moment was when he showed up at the book release party with a big hug and a huge smile. He obviously went out of his way to participate in an event that confirmed his pride in his work.
What led you to become part of our volunteer community?
I have been mostly working with the high school population because I have reconfirmed something about myself that I thought I knew: I like teenagers! I am a social worker who has worked with teens and young adults in clinics, group homes, high schools, and counseling settings for over 40 years. Since retiring from a 30-year job as a director of an adoption program, I have focused my attention on helping students with the college-going process. This often includes essay writing, which works well with the other work I have been doing under the auspices of 826—the Young Authors’ Book Project, the Personal Statement Weekend, and the Podcasting Field Trips.
Tell us a bit about your life outside of 826
My life outside of 826 includes adult daughters, a husband of 35 years, lots of hiking and traveling, movies, plays, and my dog MO.
What is a piece of advice you would give a new 826 volunteer?
The advice I would give to other volunteers is to listen carefully to students, respect what they have to say, help them articulate their story by gently asking questions, and appreciate how vulnerable writing personal stories can be. I know that because I’m trying to do the same thing in my life through my own writing classes.
We’re so grateful to you Randie! Our community is stronger with your participation and continued support. Thank you!
Read more about our previous Volunteers of the Month.